Teri Schott has no problem telling anyone that her pet cat, Jackson, saved her life. Now that Jackson is gone, Teri is inspired to tell his story.
Teri is convinced that Jackson is on the Rainbow Bridge, the place where pets go in the afterlife to wait patiently, loyally, for the people who loved them in life. It is perhaps the cruellest of fates that pets are in our lives for only the briefest of times.
That idea certainly isn’t lost on Teri, who says she owes her life to Jackson.
Teri has long suffered from a severe form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and while she’s been able to control it at times with proper medication, she has built up immunities to different medications over the years, causing a domino effect that has caused her life to periodically spiral out of control over the years. She was on the verge of one of these severe downward spirals 12 years ago when Jackson came into her life.
“I was living for a short while in Tennessee, and one afternoon while I was walking out to check the mailbox, a heard a rustling behind me,” recounts Teri. “When I turned around, I caught a glimpse of a little white and orange kitty. He came up to me and began following me around. He was so affectionate. It was love at first sight.”
The meeting was fortuitous. Teri had recently had a falling out with her father and several other family members, and had left her home in Florida to trek across the country to began anew. She had hoped that a change of scenery would help her overcome the worsening symptoms of her OCD, but that wasn’t the case…until Jackson arrived.
“To this day, I feel that he chose me for a reason,” said Teri. “When he found me, I think I began to truly find myself.”
Teri chose the name “Jackson” after Jack Nicholson, who had recently won acclaim playing a man suffering from severe OCD in the movie “As Good As It Gets.” From the beginning, Jackson and Teri were inseparable, moving from Tennessee to Sussex, and finally to the Rhinelander area several years ago. Through the moves, and her illness, Jackson remained the one constant in Teri’s life.
“He was always there for me when no one else was,” said Teri. “Whenever I had a bad day, he knew it, and was always right there to comfort me. When I felt I had no one else to turn to, I could always turn to him.”
On Friday, Feb. 24, Teri woke up and went about her business as usual. She fed Jackson in the living room and stepped away into her kitchen for a minute. She heard a strange gasping sound coming from the living room, but by the time she got to his side, it was too late. Jackson had suffered a massive heart attack. He was gone.
“I was devastated,” said Teri. “It felt like my best friend had left me. He was fine a minute before, then he was gone.”
Jackson’s loss caused Teri to contemplate his life more than anything. For all the good that Jackson had done for her over the years, he was always very sickly. He suffered from congestive heart disease and asthma, among other assorted ailments. While Teri’s OCD has not allowed her to hold a steady job for years, she’s always managed to foot the bills for Jackson’s medical treatments with her federal disability payments. The high cost of veterinary care has often made life a little more difficult.
“That got me thinking that often the people that can benefit most from owning and caring for a pet are the people that can’t afford the care,” said Teri. “It’s very difficult to get insurance on a pet, and people living on fixed incomes, and especially those with mental disorders, could really benefit from having that close relationship. Right now its nearly impossible for many.”
Teri has discussed this idea with people involved with the Rhinelander Animal Shelter, and learned that not only is it very difficult financially for many to adopt and care for a pet, a good portion of the animals that are surrendered to the shelter are there because their previous owners can no longer afford to keep them.
“These are people that are having all kinds of difficulties in their lives, and then they are forced to give up their pets on top of everything else,” said Teri. “That’s so unfortunate. Those people need love and affection more than anyone knows.”
In an attempt to answer that need, Teri has begun to brainstorm ideas to create a charitable organization that would help foot the bill for people of low income or with mental disabilities to own pets. “We need to find a way as a community to provide preventative care to pets,” said Teri. “I’m open to helping raise the money any way I can. This is really all about helping others enjoy the connection of having a loving, caring pet in their lives.”
Teri, who was once a world-ranked go-cart racer, has even vowed to put on her helmet and race for the first time in decades if it would help raise funds for her project. “If there is a person in this community that has a cart and needs a racer, I’d do it, and pledge anything I won to the local shelter and the OCD Foundation,” she said. This is so important to me. Jack helped me more than any medication or treatment I’ve ever had. I know the power that pets can have on those that need help, and I want others to know it, too.”
Editor’s note: Teri wished to thank several groups that have helped her with Jackson’s care, and her own, over the years-the First United Methodist Church in Rhinelander, French’s Homestead Veterinary Clinic, Kevin Kunda of Riverside Clinic and the Foster & Smith Pet Pharmacy. To contact Teri with fundraising ideas, or for more information on her plans, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Teri Schott, P.O. Box 1573, Rhinelander, WI 54501.
Editor Craig Mandli is available at email@example.com.